Florida sees spike in boat theft

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Boat thefts in Florida are up 30 percent so far this year, compared to the same period of last year, reported The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in a statement yesterday.

More than 1,200 boats have been reported stolen in Florida this year, according to FWC, which highlighted a growing trend in theft of “go-fast” type boats.

“Go-fast boats, 26-39 feet long, are being targeted with greater frequency than in previous years,” said Lt. John Humphreys of FWC’s Investigations Section. “These boats are targeted by criminals because of their high-dollar value and for use in maritime-based smuggling activities.”

FWC is making its officers’ boating industry experience and knowledge available to law enforcement partners and private industry through active partnerships with the Florida Marine Intelligence Unit (FMIU) and through several other marine intelligence-sharing initiatives, the group reported.

“FWC provides investigative coordination and intelligence analysis support to a myriad of sheriff’s offices and police departments around the state. We offer everything from assistance with identifying boats and suspects to predicting future theft trends,” Humphreys said.

Dade, Monroe and Broward counties have the highest number of boat thefts; however, thefts have been reported from every county in the state.

“Investigations can quickly become highly complex and involve not only grand theft, but also violations such as title fraud, insurance fraud, larceny, alteration of hull identification numbers and tax evasion,” Humphreys said.

“Boat theft is big business and a growing trend in Florida,” said Capt. David Bullard of FWC’s Investigations Section. “Frequently, boat thefts are linked to larger issues, such as organized crime, illegal immigration and domestic security threats. Because of this, it’s essential to work with federal and local law enforcement agencies to combat the problem.”

“Protecting Florida’s boaters and waterways is vital to FWC’s mission,” said FWC Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto. “It’s critically important that Florida’s vast boating community take precautions to avoid becoming victims of these crimes.”

Additional information and tips for avoiding boat theft and boat title fraud can be found at MyFWC.com/Law and at the Florida Marine Intelligence Unit’s Web site, www.FMIU.org.

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